INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Big changes were announced Tuesday before the next big race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
There’s a new distance and a new sponsor to go along with the previously announced move to the road course. Instead of the the Brickyard 400, the race is now the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
After 27 years on the oval, the NASCAR Cup Series will be racing on the road course for the first time on Aug. 15.
IMS officials announced the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard will be the culmination of a race weekend that is a tripleheader bringing both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NTT INDYCAR Series to Indianapolis.
“It’s not a permanent decision. We’ll see how it goes,” IMS President Doug Boles said.
After years of lagging attendance at the Brickyard 400 despite trying several different race dates, officials announced in September the IMS road course would be used for the first time for the NASCAR Cup after the Xfinity Series ran a successful race for the first time in 2020.
“Absolutely, it’s an effort to attract more fans,” Boles said. “It’s an effort to create some racing that’s really exciting and compelling. It’s an effort to have NASCAR and INDYCAR on the weekend at the same time.”
While official attendance totals have not been released publicly for several years, Boles says the Brickyard 400 has drawn about 60,000 the last couple years, which he compares to a Colts home crowd. He says ticket sales so far for the Saturday races are better than ever.
“If we can come out of the weekend with that same range, we’d be really, really happy so we’ll see where that ends up,” Boles said.
He added that the slower speeds for the road course basically required a shortening of the distance, hence the distance of 200 miles, which is 50 miles longer than the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard for the Xfinity race. The other Saturday race is the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix in the NTT INDYCAR Series.
For the Verizon 200, the Brickyard branding stays.
“We are going to keep the Brickyard name because it’s important,” Boles said.
While the main IMS oval is off the NASCAR circuit for 2021, Boles said it’s always possible to come back at a later time.
“My guess is we’re going to stay on the road course for some period of time just to see how it works, but this is a one-year deal that we’ve done with NASCAR,” Boles said.
As for the tripleheader aspect of the races, Boles says that’s one of the few positives that came out of the pandemic, giving them an opportunity to try something they’d talked about but never been able to make happen. He added that everything will be reevaluated at the end of the year.